The law in this area is contained in the Law Reform Act 1934 and particularly in the Fatal Accidents Act 1976.
A Claimant has to establish that:-
- The deceased person was injured and killed by the fault of the person it is intended to sue for compensation
- Had the deceased survived, he could have brought a claim in his own right which would have succeeded
- The dependants of the deceased have suffered a financial loss
In other words the dependants have a statutory claim against the person who caused the accident.
A dependant is defined as a spouse/former spouse, or domestic live-in partner of two years duration, a parent/step-parent, a child of the family, a natural child of the deceased or the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles of the deceased or the children of such persons provided such a person was financially dependant on the deceased prior to his death.
A claim can be brought for the loss of the financial dependency over the period for which the dependency would have lasted if the death had not occurred. This can include the costs of the funeral, loss of income, housekeeping money or allowance, the loss of services provided by the deceased and even the loss of birthday/Christmas gifts.
A claim for loss of financial dependency is frequently technically complex and best left to a solicitor with experience in this area of law, such as a member of the Personal Injury Panel.
The husband or wife of the deceased or the parents of a deceased unmarried child (or mother, if the deceased child’s mother was not married to the father) can also bring a claim for bereavement. The amount of the bereavement award is £11,800.
For accidents after 31st March 2013 the bereavement award increased to £12980.
A claim can also be brought by the estate under the Law Reform Act 1934. This claim is for the pain and suffering of the deceased between accident and death, and any associated expenses, such as a loss of income, or for nursing care.
If a close family member suffers shock from the injuries sustained by a loved one, which would give rise to a claim against a person who caused the accident, there may be, in addition, a claim for nervous shock too.
Fatal accident claims often require representation before a Coroners Inquest. The role of the Coroner is to identify who the deceased was, how he died, when he died and where he died. It is a fact-finding inquiry. Evidence is presented and a verdict reached. The more frequent verdicts are:-
- Death by natural causes
- Accidental death/misadventure
- Unlawful killing
- Open verdict
- Death by industrial disease